How to Lean in With Confidence
Beth Mercier, Chief Information Officer
- Years with The Hartford: 4
Research shows that women are sometimes held back in their careers by “check the box syndrome.” They may doubt their viability for a new position or opportunity if they don’t meet 100 percent of the qualifications, and are less likely to put themselves in the running as a result. Men, on the other hand, often take more chances with less experience to back them up.
Here’s some advice Beth Mercier, senior vice president and chief information officer for The Hartford’s Commercial Lines, has to offer women: “Lean in, ladies. No one has everything.”
The Value of Leaning In
Leaning in has defined Beth’s own career. She has an accounting degree, an MBA, and was a Certified Public Accountant, but her professional journey has stretched well beyond the world of finance. She’s been a chief of staff and held positions in internal audit, operations, sales and marketing, training and communication, project delivery, and portfolio management.
Beth never had every skill required for her next role, but she relished the challenge each presented.
“I said yes, even when I wasn’t sure I was qualified,” she said. “I’d ask myself, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll develop a competency that will be valuable for the next challenge. ”
Through her willingness to move outside her comfort zone, Beth gained technical expertise, experience, and exposure that have culminated in her current role as CIO of a large business. And even though she didn’t initially have the deep technical background that CIOs often have, it wasn’t a barrier to success.
“There’s no way I am going to trick anyone into thinking I have 30 years of deep technical acumen,” Beth says. “I'm transparent about not knowing everything, but I’m also inquisitive and open to every learning opportunity along the way. I’m also always up for a challenge which helps as I’m leading teams and colleagues through even the toughest problems.”
That approach has rewarded her throughout her career. And enabled her to continue to grow her career in technology.
The Career Path and the Balance Sheet
Beth likens her professional philosophy to an accountant’s balance sheet.
“It’s important to understand your balance sheet and be eyes wide open about it,” Beth says. “Not everyone needs to be A-plus in everything but overall, our team needs to be A-plus in everything. I have people who are super technical and can help me and their teammates, and vice versa. It’s not a hierarchy, it’s about who’s bringing what to the party.”
It’s also about being genuine.
“Women often think they are at a disadvantage,” Beth says. “But a better orientation is to consider how to leverage the strengths that you DO have. Not by trying to fake it – that would make it much harder – but by being transparent about what you’re not, showing vulnerability, and asking for help.”
More Ways to Lean In
Beth offers these additional tips to help women achieve success in tech:
- Refresh your balance sheet at least annually. Be purposeful about it, Beth advises. Identify what you want to achieve each year, what you need to learn to get there, and who you can learn from. Turn your aspirations into an action plan and follow through on your goals.
- Volunteer, ask, do something off the side of your desk. “Say yes to the opportunities that present themselves, every single time, even if you don't think you have the skillset or the time,” Beth says. Management will take note of your interest in learning and willingness to get involved.
- Lean on your tech network and allies. Beth encourages women to join a tech networking group, if available. “The Hartford’s Women in Tech (WIT) Interest group gives our employees a forum to share new ideas, inspire continuous improvement and also share what’s keeping them up at night,” Beth says. “And it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and network.”
Find one thing that’s just yours, whether work-related or not. “We’re all busy, but I always tell women to find something they’re passionate about and get involved,” Beth says. Early in her career when her two children were young, Beth joined the Insurance Accounting and Systems Association (IASA) and never imagined the difference it would make in her life.
“I’ve met insurance executives from firms all around the country, improved communication and leadership skills, traveled, and have formed lifelong relationships,” she says. She also has served as the organization’s president and chairperson of the board. Her involvement has not only been fun, it’s contributed to her professional success.
Finally, know that you don’t have to work at a tech giant to get a fulfilling and cool tech job.
“We have a real appetite for innovation at The Hartford,” Beth says. “Our customers demand a digital and customer experience on par with Amazon and Microsoft, and we’re working on the same technologies those firms are to deliver those great experiences.”
Connect with Beth on LinkedIn and visit thehartford.com/careers to learn more about a career in tech and data at The Hartford.